The pride of Connecticut hasn’t always been in New Haven. Before Yale University moved to its current home in 1718, it spent its first 17 years located right down the street from Saybrook Point Inn & Spa in Old Saybrook. Step back in time with us to discover Old Saybrook’s former collegiate glory.
The Origins of Yale University
In 1701, the Connecticut Colony kicked off its quest to start a local Connecticut college with its passing of “An Act for the Liberty to Erect a Collegiate School.” Envisioning a center for learning for the fledgling country’s next generation of religious and political leaders, Yale University’s founders started the “Collegiate School” in Clinton, CT. Where does Old Saybrook come into play, you ask? This Clinton operation was based out of the home of Rector Abraham Pierson who taught a population of one. After Pierson died, the Collegiate School moved to its first official site in Old Saybrook, comprising of one building and 10 acres of land provided by local resident Nathan Lyde.
Trouble In Paradise
Disputes over the college’s location plagued Yale University’s time in Old Saybrook. In addition to residents in Hartford fighting for the college to move to a more central location, students, feeling the burden of long commutes to Old Saybrook, began seeking instruction from their local pastors.
Even though the deed to the college required its location to stay in Saybrook, more liberal donations given in New Haven as well as near constant difficulties in Old Saybrook led the trustees of the Collegiate School to move Yale University to New Haven — a decision met with huge protest from the Old Saybrook community.
What’s Left Behind
Although Yale left Old Saybrook, one can still see traces of our nation’s 3rd oldest school. The land where the Collegiate School’s one building once stood is now the sight of Cypress Cemetery, just a five minute walk from Saybrook Point Inn & Spa. Here, you’ll find the Yale Boulder, a 5-ton boulder with a commemorative plaque that reads “The First Site of Yale College, Founded 1701, Removed 1716.”
Even at the Point, you can find traces of Yale University’s history. In the basement of Three Stories Guest House, you can flip through old Yale yearbooks or browse historic photos of the college’s time in Old Saybrook.